TEES Valley's Tory MPs have united against plans to voluntarily ban home visits this winter, and have called for a targeted approach.

In a letter sent to leaders in the area five Conservative MPs, including Simon Clarke, Jacob Young, Matt Vickers, Peter Gibson and Paul Howell, said they had formed a united front against any blanket ban on home visits which would "condemn thousands of local people to loneliness and isolation".

Tees Valley leaders, along with Public Health England will meet today to discuss whether to make the requests.

The joint letter begins with the MPs expressing "deep reservations about proposals to ask the Government to impose further restrictions on the lives of residents in the Tees Valley".

It says: "It is now apparent that we may be living alongside this virus for a significant time to come, and while we very much hope a vaccine will be available in the future, there is no certainty of when. In light of this, we are all very concerned by the reported prospect of the authorities we represent voluntarily seeking to impose measures additional to those mandated by central Government.

"In particular, a ban on household mixing as winter approaches would in practice condemn thousands of local people to loneliness and isolation – even with mitigating measures in place. Every coronavirus case is to be taken very seriously, and we recognise how dangerous the disease can be for some individuals.

"However, at a time when there are low numbers of coronavirus hospitalisations across the Tees Valley, with fewer than 30 people in James Cook Hospital for example, to launch a lockdown of up to 600,000 people across the Tees Valley is not something we believe is yet required by the situation. We must continue to deliver a proportionate approach to the risk posed by the virus. Whilst a second wave of Covid-19 presents a risk, we have far greater knowledge of the virus than we did earlier in the year, including access to vastly improved treatments, which enables our response to evolve beyond the blanket measures put in place in March."

It concludes: "Wherever possible, restrictions should be targeted at a postcode level in response to the risk. We urge you to give the new national measures more time to bed in, and not to seek to go further than central Government presently requires."

Mary Lanigan, Leader of Redcar and Cleveland council, who was sent the letter, said: "My concern about this is the numbers are rising. We need to be on top of this. We've got to make sure that people are safe. Public Health are telling us the numbers are rising because people are going to peoples houses. It's essential that we have a look."

Andy Preston, mayor of Middlesbrough who was also sent the letter, said: "I have mixed feelings about this action and am trying to understand the basics of the science behind it. To justify implementing this action we need to be convinced that the benefit would be big - will it definitely save lives and jobs?

"Obviously this measure was recently put in place just up the road in Durham and Tyne and Wear. At that time their infection rates were about where ours are now - so if it did make sense for them then it should make sense for us now."

Andy McDonald, Labour MP for Middlesbrough, said: "I am amazed at the intervention from local Tory MPs decrying potential moves by our local authorities to try and suppress further spread of the virus. As much as anyone, I don’t want their incompetent Government denying people any more freedom than is absolutely necessary but by their letter they are undermining councils, local health authorities, directors of social care and Public Health who wrestle with the flow of data on a daily basis. 

"I meet on a weekly basis with the Mayor of Middlesbrough, the Chief Executive and senior officers as well as Government officials where we study the data and come together on the latest advice messages that need to go out to the public. Simon Clarke hasn’t attended a single meeting since they were established months and months ago.

"Instead of sniping from the sidelines he would be better advised turning up now and again and whilst he’s at it, getting his libertarian Tory extremists in Parliament to wear masks and keep socially distant. Nobody wants a situation where Councils are having to ask for more powers to bring in yet further restrictions, but if rates of new infections continue to rise they cannot sit on their hands.

"I am desperately worried about people being separated from their loved ones and the misery that the restrictions cause but if we are going to be able to enjoy anything like a normal Christmas we have to remain absolutely vigilant and take all necessary steps to peg back the spread of the virus."